This is a bloody South African epic which starts right out with the 16-year old Scot hero getting his left hand chopped off. After which the plot really gets sanguinary. The novel covers about ten years, starting with Jamie Black's arrival as a British convict at Cape of Good Hope. He and four companions escape in manacles and are separated when they sever his hand. Nursed back to life by some friendly British, Jamie is fitted out with a steel claw. After several months he goes to a colony in the interior and is taken on as a semi-adopted son by a Dutch farmer. During the next five years he becomes a man and is respected for the first time in his life, partly because of his claw. His fellow convicts have not been idle; they raid cattle and see that the crime is attributed to Stone Age Bushmen. Jamie saves a Bushmen named Stone- Axe, who becomes his Sancho Panza and who saves Jamie repeatedly when the plot gets tight. Meanwhile, the whites are pushing the Bushmen farther north and the natives have their revenge. The melodramatic climax finds Jamie imprisoned in a cave for two days with a ravenous giant hyena. Imbedded throughout are savage tortures, murders and the destruction of a native village for which Jamie accepts personal guilt. Neither the pastoral descriptions, the women nor the dialogue are memorable, but the story has a real book.